Sunday, June 10, 2012

NBA Update

I have to say that I would have been utterly shocked if the aged Celtics had managed to beat LeBron and company in Game 7 in Miami, and they did not. The Heat beat Boston 101-88 behind another spectacular performance from LeBron James, who went for 31 points and 12 rebounds. Here are LeBron's numbers in 18 playoff games so far this year:

Shooting percentage: 50.8
3-point shooting percentage: 27.5
Free-throw shooting percentage: 71.8
Points per game: 30.8
Rebounds per game: 9.6
Assists per game: 5.1

Those are pretty amazing numbers -- especially given that teams don't have to respect LeBron's three-point shooting. It's also important to recall that the Heat beat the Pacers and the Celtics with very little involvement from Chris Bosh. But Bosh played well last night (19 pts, 8 rebounds) and he will be there against the Thunder.

Meanwhile, here are Kevin Durant's numbers through 15 playoff games (OKC went an amazing 12-3 against three recent NBA champions: the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs):

Shooting percentage: 50.5
Three-point shooting percentage: 36.4
Free-throw shooting percentage: 87.0
Points per game: 27.8
Rebounds per game: 7.9
Assists per game: 4.2

These numbers accurately show that Durant is a better pure shooter (both at the line and from behind the arc) than James, and that he's almost as good as James at getting rebounds and dishing out assists. I believe that these facts -- together with the fact that Durant has the home court advantage and a better supporting cast -- will bring the title to Oklahoma.

But this is a very difficult series to call. In fact, it's very unusual to have a situation like this one, where the two best players in the NBA are both battling for their first title. The last such match-up I can remember was in 1977, when Dr. J's Philadelphia 76ers took on Bill Walton's Portland Trail Blazers. Dr. J was 27, and Walton was 24. Erving was magnificent -- scoring 30.3 points per game -- but the Blazers' more team-oriented approach prevailed, as Portland took the title in six games. (These days, of course, ESPN would have dumped all over Erving).

If James can take his game to another level -- such as by hitting a high percentage of outside shots -- or if he can get more help from the rest of his team, Miami can win the title. Either way, it should be a remarkable -- and perhaps even historic -- series.

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